ST. PETERSBURG — Monica Abbott has seen plenty while gazing out her window at the 95-year-old Mediterranean revival hotel across the street.
When the three-story building at 7401 Central Ave. was run as a low-cost hotel she saw cops breaking up fights and people coming and going at all hours of the night.
When it was under new ownership in 2007, she saw the dignified Parkview Hotel sign go up, a manicured lawn and construction workers. After the renovation came to a halt in 2011, Abbott watched a decaying building, overgrown grass and for-sale signs coming and going.
In recent weeks she has seen members of the SWAT team, with canines in tow, swarming the building. "I saw that and didn't know what was happening over there now," Abbott said.
Turns out the long empty, 40,000-square-foot hotel has been used recently as a training ground for police officers.
"That type of training usually involves an officer going room to room in a re-enactment of some sort of shooter scenario," said Mike Puetz, police spokesman. "It requires a vacant structure where there isn't going to be a lot of pedestrian traffic walking by."
Schools are often used for such training in the summer because they are empty, Puetz said. All officers go through training at least once a year, Puetz said.
But the empty structure that was once the elegant Crystal Bay Hotel won't be a backdrop for room-clearing exercises with guns and dogs much longer.
Owner Mark Tong said he is renovating it with plans to open a hotel for guests who want to take part in cancer prevention programs.
"You will see an increase in (construction) activity at the property over the next few weeks," he said.
The refurbished hotel will house a medical clinic similar to one Tong is involved with in Oldsmar called Utopia Wellness. It offers alternative treatments such as intravenous vitamin therapy, colon cleansing, lymphatic massage, and treatments that fortify the body's immune system after chemotherapy.
Most services aren't covered by insurance because they are not traditional, its website states. Clients receive a customized regimen of treatments that averages $2,500 a week.
Tong did not disclose when he thinks the hotel could reopen as a health clinic. His Crystal Bay Properties paid $590,000 for the property in 1996 and sold it for $2.4 million in 2004 and again for $3.5 million in 2007. Both buyers defaulted and ownership reverted to Crystal Bay Properties. Tong has had it on the market in recent years but has had no takers.
In its heyday as the Crystal Bay Hotel supposedly hosted luminaries like Glenn Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth and Robert Kennedy.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8785.